Franklin Johnson remembers the confusion and isolation he felt as a gay teen struggling with his identity. It’s why he got involved with D.C. Youth Pride Alliance, the organization that puts on Youth Pride, slated for Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. in Dupont Circle (see page 42 for more information).
“Whenever I was coming to terms with who I was, I didn’t have any Youth Pride or LGBT resources of any kind,” the 25-year-old Alton, Ill., native says. “It’s a great outlet for them and there are a lot of resources in D.C. they may not even know about.”
Johnson, who came to D.C. to go to school at George Washington (he plans to graduate next May), initially found Youth Pride in D.C. underwhelming, though. When he arrived in 2006, he was disappointed to find few booths and a mediocre turnout. He got involved to try to boost interest and is the Alliance treasurer this year.
Johnson goes to school part time and works at Armani Exchange (“The employee discount is incredible!”) in Pentagon City and lives in Dupont Circle. He’s majoring in political science and plans to pursue a career in government.
His family is still in Illinois and he returns about three times a year to visit. Johnson is single and enjoys debating politics and current events, reading and jogging in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since 2006. I think the hardest person I had to tell was myself. I was in denial for many years and went through constant struggles figuring out who I was until I realized to just be myself.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Chaos used to be the spot! But presently I would say Cobalt because it’s such a great place to meet people.
Describe your dream wedding.
Evening, black tie, candlelight, VIP style with lots of guests.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Politics and equality.
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. I would love to get his opinion on the LGBT movement today and what we need to do as a society to reach equality on all levels.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Meat dress! Just the overall emergence of Lady Gaga will be very memorable to me because of her dedication to LGBT causes and because she has been such an inspirational figure for the LGBT community.
On what do you insist?
Respect and integrity.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“So cool!” I posted and commented on an article I read in the Washington Post about how fire ants survive floods. It’s truly remarkable! The fire ant colony, when submerged in water, is able to form a raft by locking their bodies together to create a water barrier that helps them stay afloat. Again, so cool!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Black, White and Everything In-between”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
That would be exciting and welcoming for some, but for myself I wouldn’t do anything because I am proud of who I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in a higher power. We are all here for some purpose.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Include everyone, be brave and persistent and never give up!
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My family, friends and loved ones.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That gay people have to either be tops or bottoms, masculine or feminine.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Milk” (my political side) and “Brokeback Mountain” (my emotional side).
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The idea that apologizing or admitting you made a mistake is seen as a form of weakness. It’s actually quite the opposite.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I don’t covet them, but I really respect and honor my grandfather’s war medals, especially from WWII, and what they symbolize.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
It gets better from here, it is OK to be yourself and the world is not black and white.
My love for politics, my love for the LGBT community within Washington, and because Washington has so much to offer!